“Some of them I have pretty well planned, but some I just paint in the sky and go from there,” said Olivia-based artist Mary Schroepfer recently.

Schroepfer will be displaying more than 30 of her recent paintings at the Redwood Falls Public Library until Nov. 30. She spoke about how she got started on her hobby as an artist comparatively recently.

Schroepfer grew up on a farm near Bechyn.

Although she discovered art early in life, she said, “I’ve spent most of my life as a bookkeeper.”

Like many others who put their dreams of being artists on hold until later in life, Schroepfer began seriously exploring painting once her children had grown up and left home. For years, Schroepfer ran a store in Olivia – “Expressions” – that specialized in handmade gifts.

From that she was able to meet local artists and craftspeople, and she was introduced into the larger area arts community. One major inspiration was area artist Dorothea Paul, who died recently after decades in the southwestern Minnesota arts world.

“Our husbands used to work together, so I got to know her from that,” Schroepfer said. “Once I got to watch Dorothea work on a large mural, and she was very encouraging that I should try painting myself."

"I took an art class and liked it, but sometimes I let it lapse,” she admitted. “Then I look at the art supplies I bought, and think, ‘Well, I should do something with them.’”

Unlike some artists who like to brag-complain about the tortures of creativity, Schroepfer looks at it as an opportunity to escape for a little while.

“I’m so busy since I retired. I always have so much to do now. Painting is very relaxing, very therapeutic. I paint every Thursday afternoon with my friends,” she said.

Schroepfer’s topics range from wildlife (“I love painting pheasants; they come very easily to me”) to landscapes and flowers. Several have been inspired by vacations she has made with her husband.

“In Alaska we were on a tour bus, and I saw a lake outside that I thought was just beautiful,” Schroepfer said. “I said, ‘Stop the bus. I need to get a photo of that.’ I made them stop the bus for me.”

Next on her list of ambitions is trying a subject she’s shied away from – people.

“I’ve tried painting portraits of my niece and granddaughter and would like to try more, but it’s so hard to make someone like them.”

The earliest painting in the library collection dates back to 1989; the most recent one was finished a few weeks ago.

Although most of her art is on the traditional canvases, she has also painted on other surfaces such as ostrich eggs and pumpkins. How long does it take her to finish an oil painting?

“Some take weeks,” said Schroepfer. “Some I can ‘finish’ in a couple afternoons, but of course then you hang it up on the wall, see something you don’t like, say, ‘That’s not right’ and work on it some more.”